One of the most popular AEA365 posts over time is Annaliese Calhoun’s Measuring Sustainability Capacity and Planning for Long Term Success. I suspect this is because as evaluators, our work can regularly stray into the area of program planning. And if we’re providing input into program design, why not add extra value in terms of ways to promote program sustainability as well?
Years ago I was given an opportunity to research what factors are associated with greater program sustainability, and what I learned truly surprised me. It turns out achieving sustainability isn’t rocket science. In fact, the promoters of program sustainability read like many best practices for operating a nonprofit: diversified funding, program champions, and collaborative partners. Not surprisingly, evaluation is also a strongly associated with greater program longevity. But there are other promoters you might not immediately think about, such as a strong volunteer base, in-kind resources, high visibility, local values and culture, and a sustainability plan. Although researchers are still learning about the conditions under which new program innovations are sustained, I’m excited by the potential of what we can achieve with what we currently understand now.
Rad Resource: The Program Sustainability Assessment Tool (PSAT). There are several tools available to help groups appraise their level of sustainability, but this is the one I like best. Developed by the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis, the PSAT allows you to assess a program on several dimensions that increase the likelihood of later sustainability. Although the Center originally developed it for chronic disease prevention programs, it’s relevant for most types of programs. The tool is quick, user-friendly, and best of all produces a score that groups can use to evaluate their progress over time.
Rad Resource: If program sustainability is a concern, consider developing a formal sustainability plan. The step by step exercises and tips in Survive and Thrive: Three Steps to Enhancing Your Program Sustainability can make this a breeze for you and the groups you work with.
Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.